The competition for attracting and retaining talent at RIA firms has been heating up for years as an increasing percentage of advisors leave one firm for another. According to Schwab’s latest Independent Advisor Outlook Study, released today at its Impact 2018 conference, 41% of advisors surveyed said an employee either left or joined another RIA firm in the past five years.

“There are 80,000 CFPs,” said Steven Elwell, partner and vice president at Level Financial Advisors on a panel arranged for the media, noting that his firm requires all its advisors to be certified financial planners. “There’s an enormous amount of competition for those limited resources.”

Talent is a huge issue for the industry,” said April Bortscheller, financial advisor at the Berger Financial Group. “The unemployment rate is so low” among financial advisors that now firms have to sell themselves to prospective job applicants rather than the other way around, she said.

“Now the conversation is about what we bring as an employer, what our plan is for the future of the employee that gets hired,” Elwell said. “Prospective employees want some clarity about opportunities.”

According to the advisor outlook study, compensation is the leading means for firms to attract and retain talent, noted by more than 50% of the advisors surveyed. Advancement opportunities and flexible scheduling were cited by roughly 30% of advisors as ways to attract and keep talent. In total, 783 advisors from independent investment advisor firms whose assets are custodied at Schwab participated in the survey, conducted in the late summer.

The outlook study also asked advisors what changes their firms have made as a result of the financial crisis of 2008 and what they didn’t alter. Technology led the list, cited by 61% of those surveyed, followed by investment products used (48%) and frequency of communications with clients (41%). Over 70% of those surveyed reported no change in pricing, level of transparency with clients or investment philosophy.

The change in technology “has been enormous,” said Elwell, adding that it seems “almost overwhelming how much fintech is out there and how many programs can help us be better.” He noted that even the “little things” like electronic signatures adds up to save advisors lots of time, which can then be deployed for other value-add services.

“Technology will be the enabler of relationships, integration and scale,” said Bernie Clark, head of advisor services for Charles Schwab. Technology changes will be continuous and advisors will have to keep up, Clark added.

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